What are the 7 Wastes?

What is Waste?

Waste is working without creating value. Lean methodology refers to “7 wastes”—seven categories describing things which, when reduced, increase value, profitability, and productivity. The 7 wastes of lean manufacturing are defects, inventory, processing, waiting, motion, transportation, and overproduction. 


The defect of waste is exactly what you’d assume—defective products which lead to replacement or repair and wasted time. To identify defect waste, ask, “Do we know what our customer’s needs are? Are we manufacturing goods that meet the clients’ expectations? Are we delighting our clients with our products or services?” 


Inventory waste refers to too much or too little materials, work-in-progress, or finished goods. To identify inventory waste, ask, “Do we have too much or not enough of what we need to run our business?”  


There are three types of processing waste: overprocessing, under-processing, and bad processing. Together, they refer to waste that is caused by inefficient systems, completing unnecessary work, or overly complicated methods of production. To identify processing waste, ask, “Are we without a process, over-processing, under-processing, or worse, processing faulty goods? Do we have one agreed-upon method that will deliver the desired results?” 


Waiting waste is the amount of time workers are unable to move on to the next step. It’s caused by things like stock shortages, malfunctioning machines, or capacity bottlenecks. To uncover waiting waste, ask, “How long are people waiting for what they need?”


Motion waste is caused by the unnecessary movement of people, which may include time spent looking for, reaching for, stacking, or walking to products and raw materials. To identify motion waste, ask, “Are people bending, straining, walking, or searching for information or the things they need?” 


Transportation causes waste by the unnecessary movement of stuff, work, people, products, materials, or finished goods between storage locations or steps in the production process. To identify transportation waste, ask, “How are we moving parts, paper, data, ideas, or products from point A to point B?” 


Overproduction is considered the worst of the seven wastes because it hides and causes all other waste. To make matters worse, we have found that Overproduction is created by the system choice, selected by the corner office, and drives most of the waste into the organization. 

There is a lean term called “batch push,” which is a strong indicator of overproduction. You can work in bit or batch, and you can either push or pull from your customers. “Batch push” happens when you create in batches rather than bits and push your overproduction on your customers instead of pulling from their needs. 

Overproduction causes waste by making items that have not been ordered, which results in waste like overstaffing, additional costs in storage and transportation, or additional billed time. Overproduction also hides other wastes by making it nearly impossible to see the truth of what is really going on. To identify overproduction in your organization, ask, “Are we making more than the client needs right now?”

Is Waste a Problem?  

Reducing waste in your business has to start with your leadership team. Only when the core members of an organization understand what waste is, admit it’s a problem, and decide they want to do something about it, can change start. 

Stop Creating Waste, Start Creating Value 

If you recognize waste is a problem in your business, don’t worry. You’re not alone! We’ve been there too. That’s why we offer Kaas Waste Tours. We like to think the journey towards continuous improvement begins with our Kaas Waste Tour for executive leadership teams—a hands-on tour of our living, breathing manufacturing facility which includes in-depth training on the 7 wastes, an introduction to some of the improvement tools we use, and conversations with a variety of Kaas team members.

At Kaas Tailored, we talk a lot about continuous improvement as a culture. We use words like Bit, One-Piece Flow, and Kaizen, which can feel confusing if you are just starting your journey. We have put together a small series that explains how we think and talk about reducing waste within our company so that you can have the vocabulary to start identifying waste within your world. Then, we can work together to help you start your own journey of continuous improvement.